Exodus 17:14
And the LORD said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
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(14) Write this for a memorial in a book.—Heb., in the book. That “book” existed long prior to Moses is implied in his quotation of them (Genesis 5:1; Numbers 21:14), and has of late years been abundantly proved by the discoveries made of Egyptian papyruses dating from a time long anterior to the Jewish lawgiver. The expression used in the present place, if it may be trusted,[59]the book,” is remarkable, and seems to imply that a book already existed at the date of the engagement, in which God’s dealings with His people were entered from time to time. (See Introduction to Speaker’s Commentary, vol. i., p. 1.) This book was probably the germ of the existing Pentateuch, which was composed in many portions, and at intervals, as occasion arose.

[59] Bĕsêpher, “in a book,” and bassêpher. “in the book, differ only in the pointing, which, resting solely on tradition cannot be entirely depended on. The LXX. omit the article.

I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek.—The extermination of Amalek, here prophesied, was afterwards laid as a positive command upon the Israelites (Deuteronomy 25:19), and was accomplished in part by Saul and David (1Samuel 14:48; 1Samuel 15:7; 1Samuel 27:8; 1Samuel 30:17; 2Samuel 8:12), but finally and completely in the reign of Hezekiah (1Chronicles 4:43). Amalek’s sin was, that after all the signs and wonders which had shown the Israelites to be God’s peculiar people, he braved God’s displeasure by attacking them (Deuteronomy 25:18). To this audacity and contempt of Jehovah’s power he added a cruel pitilessness, when he fell upon the rear of an almost unarmed host, at a time when they were “faint and weary.”

17:8-16 Israel engaged with Amalek in their own necessary defence. God makes his people able, and calls them to various services for the good of his church. Joshua fights, Moses prays, both minister to Israel. The rod was held up, as the banner to encourage the soldiers. Also to God, by way of appeal to him. Moses was tired. The strongest arm will fail with being long held out; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still. We do not find that Joshua's hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses' hands were heavy in praying; the more spiritual any service is, the more apt we are to fail and flag in it. To convince Israel that the hand of Moses, whom they had been chiding, did more for their safety than their own hands, his rod than their sword, the success rises and falls as Moses lifts up or lets down his hands. The church's cause is more or less successful, as her friends are more or less strong in faith, and fervent in prayer. Moses, the man of God, is glad of help. We should not be shy, either of asking help from others, or of giving help to others. The hands of Moses being thus stayed, were steady till the going down of the sun. It was great encouragement to the people to see Joshua before them in the field of battle, and Moses above them on the hill. Christ is both to us; our Joshua, the Captain of our salvation, who fights our battles, and our Moses, who ever lives, making intercession above, that our faith fail not. Weapons formed against God's Israel cannot prosper long, and shall be broken at last. Moses must write what had been done, what Amalek had done against Israel; write their bitter hatred; write their cruel attempts; let them never be forgotten, nor what God had done for Israel in saving them from Amalek. Write what should be done; that in process of time Amalek should be totally ruined and rooted out. Amalek's destruction was typical of the destruction of all the enemies of Christ and his kingdom.In a book - in the book, i. e. the book which contained the history of God's dealings with His people. Moses was further instructed to impress the command especially on the mind of Joshua, as the leader to whom the first step toward its accomplishment would be entrusted on the conquest of Canaan. The work was not actually completed until the reign of Hezekiah, 1 Chronicles 4:43. 14-16. Write this for a memorial—If the bloody character of this statute seems to be at variance with the mild and merciful character of God, the reasons are to be sought in the deep and implacable vengeance they meditated against Israel (Ps 83:4). In a book; even in this book, which Moses was to write by God’s inspiration and appointment. See Exodus 34:27 Deu 31:9,22. In the ears of Joshua, thy successor, and the captain of my people, that he and all succeeding governors may watch all occasions to execute this command.

I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek, i.e. I will utterly destroy them; for a person or people dead or destroyed are soon forgotten, Psalm 31:12, and the grave is called the land of forgetfulness, Psalm 88:12. Or thus, Though they are now a numerous and flourishing people, and in great repute, I will make them few and inglorious, for such are little minded or remembered; for this is not to be understood absolutely of a speedy and utter extinction of them, for he supposeth their being from generation to generation, Exodus 17:16, but comparatively. From under heaven; from the face of the whole earth. And the Lord said unto Moses,.... After the battle was over, and the Israelites had got the victory:

write this for a memorial in a book: not in loose papers, but in a book, that it might continue; meaning that the account of this battle with Amelek should be put down in the annals or journal of Moses, in the book of the law he was writing, or was about to write, and would write, as he did, see Joshua 1:7 that so it might be kept in memory, and transmitted to the latest posterity; it being on the one hand an instance of great impiety, inhumanity, and rashness, in Amalek, and on the other a display of the goodness, kindness, and power of God on the behalf of his people: and

rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; who was a principal person concerned in this battle, and therefore, when the account was written and rehearsed, could bear witness to the truth of it, as well as he was to be the chief person that should be concerned in introducing the Israelites into the land of Canaan, and subduing the Canaanites; and therefore this, and what follows, was to be rehearsed to him, as the rule of his conduct toward them, and particularly Amalek:

for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amelek from under heaven; so that they shall be no more a nation, and their name never mentioned, unless with disgrace and contempt. This was fulfilled partly by Saul, 1 Samuel 15:8 and more completely by David, 1 Samuel 30:17, and the finishing stroke the Jews give to Mordecai and Esther, as the Targum of Jerusalem on Exodus 17:6.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial {h} in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

(h) In the book of the law.

14. this] the preceding incident.

in a book] The Heb., as pointed, is, in the book, whence it has often been supposed that the reference is to the history which Moses had already begun to write. But though this might be the meaning of the Heb., it is certainly not the necessary meaning: ‘the Hebrew always writes in the book, Numbers 5:23, 1 Samuel 10:25, Jeremiah 32:10, Job 19:23 (cf. Esther 9:25 Heb.)’ (Di.); an object being conceived as definite in Heb. not only because it is already known or has been mentioned before, but also because it is taken for a particular purpose, and so made definite in the speaker’s or writer’s mind. See numerous examples in G.-K. § 126r, s: e.g. Exodus 16:32 the omerful, Exodus 21:20 with the rod, Numbers 21:9 put it on the pole, Joshua 2:15 with the cord, &c.; in all such cases we naturally say a.

rehearse] Heb. place; the meaning being, impress it upon Joshua. ‘Rehearse,’ at least as understood now, is not very suitable. It means properly (from Fr. reherser) to harrow over again, fig. to go over repeatedly: in Jdg 5:11, 1 Samuel 17:31, it is used in the sense of tell, recite.

for (marg.) &c.] The memory of the incident is to be preserved, because, on account of the unfriendliness shewn in it by Amalek, it is Jehovah’s purpose to blot out their name from under heaven.

I will utterly blot out, &c.] Repeated, in the form of an injunction laid upon Israel, in Deuteronomy 25:19. To ‘blot out from under heaven,’ also, Deuteronomy 9:14; Deuteronomy 29:20.

14, 15. Provision made for the remembrance of the victory to be handed down to future generations.Verse 14. - Write this... in a book. The original has, "Write this in the book." It is clear that a book already existed, in which Moses entered events of interest, and that now he was divinely commanded to record in it the great victory over Amalek, and the threat uttered against them. The record was to be for a memorial -

1. that the victory itself might be held in remembrance through all future ages, as a very signal instance of God's mercy; and

2. that when the fulfilment of the threat came (1 Chronicles 4:43), God might have his due honour, and his name be glorified. Rehearse it in the ears of Joshua. "Hand down," i.e., to thy successor, Joshua, the tradition of perpetual hostility with Amalek, and the memory of the promise now made, that the whole nation shall be utterly blotted out from under heaven. (Compare Deuteronomy 25:19.) The special sin of Amalek was,

1. That he attacked God's people, not fearing God (ib, verse 18);

2. That he had no compassion on his own kindred: and

3. That he fell on them when they were already suffering affliction, and were "feeble, and faint and weary" (ib,) The want of water had only just been provided for, when Israel had to engage in a conflict with the Amalekites, who had fallen upon their rear and smitten it (Deuteronomy 25:18). The expansion of this tribe, that was descended from a grandson of Esau (see Genesis 36:12), into so great a power even in the Mosaic times, is perfectly conceivable, if we imagine the process to have been analogous to that which we have already described in the case of the leading branches of the Edomites, who had grown into a powerful nation through the subjugation and incorporation of the earlier population of Mount Seir. The Amalekites had no doubt come to the neighbourhood of Sinai for the same reason for which, even in the present day, the Bedouin Arabs leave the lower districts at the beginning of summer, and congregate in the mountain regions of the Arabian peninsula, viz., because the grass is dried up in the former, whereas in the latter the pasturage remains green much longer, on account of the climate being comparatively cooler (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 789). There they fell upon the Israelites, probably in the Sheikh valley, where the rear had remained behind the main body, not merely for the purpose of plundering or of disputing the possession of this district and its pasture ground with the Israelites, but to assail Israel as the nation of God, and if possible to destroy it. The divine command to exterminate Amalek (Exodus 17:14) points to this; and still more the description given of the Amalekites in Balaam's utterances, as גּוים ראשׁית, "the beginning," i.e., the first and foremost of the heathen nations (Numbers 24:20). In Amalek the heathen world commenced that conflict with the people of God, which, while it aims at their destruction, can only be terminated by the complete annihilation of the ungodly powers of the world. Earlier theologians pointed out quite correctly the deepest ground for the hostility of the Amalekites, when they traced the causa belli to this fact, "quod timebat Amalec, qui erat de semine Esau, jam implendam benedictionem, quam Jacob obtinuit et praeripuit ipsi Esau, praesertim cum in magna potentia venirent Israelitae, ut promissam occuparent terram" Mnster, C. a Lapide, etc.). This peculiar significance in the conflict is apparent, not only from the divine command to exterminate the Amalekites, and to carry on the war of Jehovah with Amalek from generation to generation (Exodus 17:14 and Exodus 17:16), but also from the manner in which Moses led the Israelites to battle and to victory. Whereas he had performed all the miracles in Egypt and on the journey by stretching out his staff, on this occasion he directed his servant Joshua to choose men for the war, and to fight the battle with the sword. He himself went with Aaron and Hur to the summit of a hill to hold up the staff of God in his hands, that he might procure success to the warriors through the spiritual weapons of prayer.

The proper name of Joshua, who appears here for the first time in the service of Moses, as Hosea (הושׁע); he was a prince of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8, Numbers 13:16; Deuteronomy 32:44). The name יהושׁע, "Jehovah is help" (or, God-help), he probably received at the time when he entered Moses' service, either before or after the battle with the Amalekites (see Numbers 13:16, and Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii.). Hur, who also held a prominent position in the nation, according to Exodus 24:14, in connection with Aaron, was the son of Caleb, the son of Hezron, the grandson of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:18-20), and the grandfather of Bezaleel, the architect of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2; Exodus 35:30; Exodus 38:22, cf. 1 Chronicles 2:19-20). According to Jewish tradition, he was the husband of Miriam.

The battle was fought on the day after the first attack (Exodus 17:9). The hill (גּבעה, not Mount Horeb), upon the summit of which Moses took up his position during the battle, along with Aaron and Hur, cannot be fixed upon with exact precision, but it was probably situated in the table-land of Fureia, to the north of er Rahah and the Sheikh valley, which is a fertile piece of pasture ground (Burckhardt, p. 801; Robinson, i. pp. 139, 215), or else in the plateau which runs to the north-east of the Horeb mountains and to the east of the Sheikh valley, with the two peaks Umlanz and Um Alawy; supposing, that is, that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites from Wady Muklifeh or es Suweiriyeh. Moses went to the top of the hill that he might see the battle from thence. He took Aaron and Hur with him, not as adjutants to convey his orders to Joshua and the army engaged, but to support him in his own part in connection with the conflict. This was to hold up his hand with the staff of God in it. To understand the meaning of this sign, it must be borne in mind that, although Exodus 17:11 merely speaks of the raising and dropping of the hand (in the singular), yet, according to Exodus 17:12, both hands were supported by Aaron and Hur, who stood one on either side, so that Moses did not hold up his hands alternately, but grasped the staff with both his hands, and held it up with the two. The lifting up of the hands has been regarded almost with unvarying unanimity by Targumists, Rabbins, Fathers, Reformers, and nearly all the more modern commentators, as the sign or attitude of prayer. Kurtz, on the contrary, maintains, in direct opposition to the custom observed throughout the whole of the Old Testament by all pious and earnest worshipers, of lifting up their hands to God in heaven, that this view attributes an importance to the outward form of prayer which has no analogy even in the Old Testament; he therefore agrees with Lakemacher, in Rosenmller's Scholien, in regarding the attitude of Moses with his hand lifted up as "the attitude of a commander superintending and directing the battle," and the elevation of the hand as only the means adopted for raising the staff, which was elevated in the sight of the warriors of Israel as the banner of victory. But this meaning cannot be established from Exodus 17:15 and Exodus 17:16. For the altar with the name "Jehovah my banner," and the watchword "the hand on the banner of Jehovah, war of the Lord against Amalek," can neither be proved to be connected with the staff which Moses held in his hand, nor be adduced as a proof that Moses held the staff in front of the Israelites as the banner of victory. The lifting up of the staff of God was, no doubt, a banner to the Israelites of victory over their foes, but not in this sense, that Moses directed the battle as commander-in-chief, for he had transferred the command to Joshua; nor yet in this sense, that he imparted divine powers to the warriors by means of the staff, and so secured the victory. To effect this, he would not have lifted it up, but have stretched it out, either over the combatants, or at all events towards them, as in the case of all the other miracles that were performed with the staff. The lifting up of the staff secured to the warriors the strength needed to obtain the victory, from the fact that by means of the staff Moses brought down this strength from above, i.e., from the Almighty God in heaven; not indeed by a merely spiritless and unthinking elevation of the staff, but by the power of his prayer, which was embodied in the lifting up of his hands with the staff, and was so far strengthened thereby, that God had chosen and already employed this staff as a medium of the saving manifestation of His almighty power. There is no other way in which we can explain the effect produced upon the battle by the raising and dropping (הניח) of the staff in his hands. As long as Moses held up the staff, he drew down from God victorious powers for the Israelites by means of his prayer; but when he let it fall through the exhaustion of the strength of his hands, he ceased to draw down the power of God, and Amalek gained the upper hand. The staff, therefore, as it was stretched out on high, was not a sign to the Israelites that were fighting, for it is by no means certain that they could see it in the heat of the battle; but it was a sign to Jehovah, carrying up, as it were, to God the wishes and prayers of Moses, and bringing down from God victorious powers for Israel. If the intention had been the hold it up before the Israelites as a banner of victory. Moses would not have withdrawn to a hill apart from the field of battle, but would either have carried it himself in front of the army, or have given it to Joshua as commander, to be borne by him in front of the combatants, or else have entrusted it to Aaron, who had performed the miracles in Egypt, that he might carry it at their head. The pure reason why Moses did not do this, but withdrew from the field of battle to lift up the staff of God upon the summit of a hill, and to secure the victory by so doing, is to be found in the important character of the battle itself. As the heathen world was now commencing its conflict with the people of God in the persons of the Amalekites, and the prototype of the heathen world, with its hostility to God, was opposing the nation of the Lord, that had been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt and was on its way to Canaan, to contest its entrance into the promised inheritance; so the battle which Israel fought with this foe possessed a typical significance in relation to all the future history of Israel. It could not conquer by the sword alone, but could only gain the victory by the power of God, coming down from on high, and obtained through prayer and those means of grace with which it had been entrusted. The means now possessed by Moses were the staff, which was, as it were, a channel through which the powers of omnipotence were conducted to him. In most cases he used it under the direction of God; but God had not promised him miraculous help for the conflict with the Amalekites, and for this reason he lifted up his hands with the staff in prayer to God, that he might thereby secure the assistance of Jehovah for His struggling people. At length he became exhausted, and with the falling of his hands and the staff he held, the flow of divine power ceased, so that it was necessary to support his arms, that they might be kept firmly directed upwards (אמוּנה, lit., firmness) until the enemy was entirely subdued. And from this Israel was to learn the lesson, that in all its conflicts with the ungodly powers of the world, strength for victory could only be procured through the incessant lifting up of its hands in prayer. "And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people (the Amalekites and their people) with the edge of the sword" (i.e., without quarter. See Genesis 34:26).

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